OPINION

Columba Bush: Embrace your Hispanic heritage, expand the knowledge of your culture

  • Dancers from the group Ballet Mexico perform during Grito de Dolores, Mexican Independence Day celebrations at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, September 15, 1999. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

    Dancers from the group Ballet Mexico perform during Grito de Dolores, Mexican Independence Day celebrations at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, September 15, 1999. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)  (2003 Getty Images)

  • NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07:   Columba Bush attends the 2012 Lincoln Center Institute Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on March 7, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 07: Columba Bush attends the 2012 Lincoln Center Institute Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on March 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)  (2012 Getty Images)

This year marks the 27th anniversary of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), a month-long recognition of the many contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to our country. In honor of the anniversary of Independence Day for five Latin American countries, September 15th was chosen as the official kickoff day for this important month. As an American of Hispanic origin, I am proud to celebrate my heritage and join with each of you as we recognize the tremendous influence of the Hispanic culture on our great nation.

As such, in recognition of 2015’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, I am asking each of you to engage in one activity that expands your knowledge of the Hispanic culture. Visit your local public library and identify a book for your children to read that highlights the history of Hispanic leadership in the United States.

- Columba Bush

Love of faith, family, friends, and food are often considered the foundation of the Hispanic culture. When I met Jeb 41 years ago, I was moved by his willingness to learn Spanish and his desire to immerse himself completely in the Hispanic culture. I often tell friends that Jeb not only fell in love with me but simultaneously fell in love with our culture and our people. After marrying Jeb and moving to the United States, I quickly realized that the love of faith, family, friends, and food are the cornerstones of the many cultures represented in this diverse country.

In the early 90s, I had the pleasure of blending my love of art, education, and heritage by assisting with the creation of the Children’s Educational Fund of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico which provided the opportunity for school age children in the United States to attend dance performances that emphasized local folk culture while combining ballet characteristics. One of the greatest joys of my adulthood was watching these performances through the eyes of small children.

While serving as Governor and First Lady of the State of Florida, Jeb and I recognized National Hispanic Heritage Month each year by hosting a reception at the Governor’s Mansion honoring the contributions of Florida’s Hispanic community to the state’s cultural heritage. We proudly displayed paintings by Salvador Dali, the prominent Spanish surrealist painter, Romero Britto, a Brazilian Neo-pop artist as well as countless others and invited schools in the area to tour the Mansion and learn about the importance of our Hispanic artists.

I believe that those of us who are given a voice should use it to educate and promote issues that are near and dear to our hearts. As such, in recognition of 2015’s National Hispanic Heritage Month, I am asking each of you to engage in one activity that expands your knowledge of the Hispanic culture. Visit your local public library and identify a book for your children to read that highlights the history of Hispanic leadership in the United States. Gather as a family and cook a meal that originates from a Latin country and share the recipe with your friends. Go to a museum that highlights Hispanic artists and if you find yourself in the Washington, D.C. area visit the Smithsonian where they plan to honor Hispanic Heritage Month by showcasing vibrant performances, lectures, family activities, and exhibitions at various museums throughout the Institution. And perhaps you will consider volunteering at your local community based charity because I can think of nothing more appropriate than giving back to others during a time of celebration.

As a wife, mother and grandmother, I am very proud to see my Hispanic-American children and grandchildren grow and succeed in the love and strength of our cultures. I love that as a multi-cultural family, we get to celebrate and enjoy all that America offers us. Most importantly, I am proud to be a citizen of the United States, a country that is comprised by so many who come from around the globe to join us as we stand as one nation under God. It is truly an exceptional nation that embraces and cherishes each and every culture.

Columba Bush is an activist for women rights and initiatives against drug addiction. She is the wife of Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush.

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